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Digital Music:
Surround Sound:



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Digital music is everywhere today. It’s on our computers, iPods, in our cars, and even in our Home Entertainment Systems. It takes up a fraction of the space and makes it easy to catalog large collections. But is this digital music equal to the sound quality found on a CD?

The answer? It depends.

Digital music is available in many different formats including uncompressed WAV, as well as the more popular compressed formats: MP3, Apple’s AAC, Microsoft’s WMA, and FLAC. The positive side of compression is that it allows for more music to be stored on your hard drive, iPod, or other digital device. The downside of most compression is that in order to shrink the file size a great deal of the original recording is stripped away or lost. In fact, these file format are called “Lossy”.

Most times when you are either downloading or ripping these audio formats (MP3, AAC, and WMA) you will see a “bit rate” listed. These bit rates tell you the amount of data allowed per second due to compression. Typically, you will see bit rates like 96, 128, and 192 kbit/s. And while 192 might sound like a big number, the scary truth is that an uncompressed CD is encoded at 1,411.2 kbit/s. Even 192 kbit/s is but a fraction of CD quality.

But all is not lost for digital music. January 2001 saw the introduction of an open source audio format called Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC. The FLAC format functions much like a zip file for data in that it compresses the size of the file without any loss of data. The difference with FLAC is that it can the information can be accessed without decompressing the file. With alossless format like FLAC, you can achieve compression of 40 to 60% and retain identical audio quality to the original.

So can digital music be CD quality? Yes it can with a lossless format like FLAC. And even though they came ½ a decade later, Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA Lossless) and Apple Lossless Audio Codec (.m4a) both offer true CD quality sound. So when making your digital music choices, remember to choose wisely.

With Lossless Audio formats (FLAC, WMA Lossless, and Apple Lossless) you are able compress and store CD quality sound easily.  But how do you play it back through your Home Entertainment System?  The solutions are many!

Did you know that our Denon IN Command Receivers have the capability to connect to an iPod, iPad, iPhone, or other USB storage device directly?  No dock required.  Plug in, browse through the on-screen display, and play!

 But what if your music is stored on you home computer or a networked hard drive?  No problem Denon’s IN Command Receivers also have that covered.  Thanks to their built-in network port, they are able to stream music across your home network.

And if a new receiver isn’t in the cards, you can count on Universal’s ultimately user-friendly PSX-2 Personal Server with TV On-Screen Control.  There is no easier way to find and playback music from your iPod.  Think buttons like, “More of this Genre” and “More from this Artist”.  Brilliant!

Blu-Ray as a technology encompasses many different things. For simplicity sake, we’ll focus on Blu-Ray as it relates to home entertainment.

Most of us have watched movies on DVD for years. Blu-Ray is positioned as the direct replacement for DVD movies. Why would you want to switch to Blu-Ray when you already have a DVD collection? The biggest reason to switch is because Blu-Ray discs offer vastly superior audio and video quality.

In terms of video quality, 1080p Blu-Ray discs offer 6x the resolution of 480p DVDs – 2,073,600 pixels versus just 345,600. Additionally, Blu-Ray discs can support “Deep Color” which allows for reproduction of up to 281.5 trillion colors!

But superior video is not the only advantage of Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray is also about much more realistic reproduction of sound. Blu-Ray supports a number of advanced surround formats that are intended to bring the surround performance in your home closer to what you hear in the best theaters. The two most common of these advanced formats, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TruHD, offer up to 7.1 channels of lossless reproduction. The utilization of lossless compression means that these soundtracks are virtually identical to the original studio masters.

Yes it can! If you have a 720p or a 1080i TV or projector, Blu-Ray will still offer you a 3x improvement in resolution. And, if you have a surround processor or A/V receiver with 5.1 or 7.1 analog inputs, a Blu-Ray disc player with a built-in surround processor can be used to give you access to Blu-Ray’s advanced surround formats.

As it turns out, all of these great advances Blu-Ray offers do come with a bit a downside for those who would prefer for their technology to be hands off. This downside comes in the form of the need for continual Firmware Updates.

Unlike DVDs, Blu-Ray allows for content providers to continue adding new features as well as new varieties of copyright protection to the discs they produce. Because these features and protections are added after players are already on the market, these players are left incompatible with these new discs.

This is where the need for Firmware Updates comes in. After these discs are released, manufactures take note of incompatibilities and make Firmware Updates available that allow players to properly read and decode the new features and protections. This is much like updating the software on your computer.

DVD-1800BD, DVD-2500BTCI, DVD-3800BDCI, and DVD-A1UDCI: Firmware updates are made available in the Product Updates & Upgrades section of the Denon website. Select your model from the pulldown menu, enter the serial number (found on the back of the player and outside of the player's box), and press "GO". You will be redirected to a page with the current firmware as well as directions for the update procedure.

DBP-1610 and DBP-2010CI:Firmware updates are downloaded from Denon via the Ethernet port on the back of the player. First, verify that the player's Ethernet port is connected to your home network and the internet by extension. Then, with the player in "STOP" mode, press the setup button on the Universal or Denon Blu-Ray remote. Navigate to the menu tab "Others" and select it. Make sure "Network Connection" is listed as "Enabled". If not, select "Network Connection" and adjust it so that it lists "Enabled". Then select "Network Update" and follow the directions on the screen.

DBP-4010UDCI:Same as DBP-1610 and DBP-2010CI up to selecting the menu tab "Others". After selecting "Others", navigate down to "Firmware Update" and follow the directions on the screen.

Updated firmware and update procedure for all models can be downloaded from the support section of the Pioneer website.

2009-current can also be updated via the Ethernet port like the latest Denon players. From "STOP" mode press the "HOME MENU" button. Navigate down and select "OPTIONS". Select "SOFTWARE UPDATE" and follow on-screen directions. Remember, your player must be connected to your home network to update in this manner. If it is not, download from support as mentioned above.

Before we delve into 7.1 and what it has to offer, let’s look back at the 5.1 surround sound that almost everyone is familiar with.  You know, the same 5.1 Dolby Digital that was first available on DVD in 1995 with the release of Clear and Present Danger.

A 5.1 surround speaker system is comprised of front left, center, front right, surround left, and surround speakers plus a subwoofer (the .1 or Low Frequency Effects channel).  In the diagram at the right, you can see that ideally the surround speakers in a 5.1 system are positioned slightly behind and wide of the main listening area.  Although there can be exceptions.  This positioning is intended to help the surround speakers offer a sense of both width and depth to the surround soundtrack.  But it also means that the surround speakers are making a compromise between best width and best depth performance.  This compromise affects the accuracy of the resulting soundstage.

Which brings us to 7.1 Channel Surround Sound.  To improve on surround performance, the surround speaker duties are split into channels for width and channels for depth.  As seen in the diagram on the right, an ideal 7.1 system has one pair of surround speakers positioned wide to the sides and another pair of surround speakers positioned towards the back.  By splitting the surround duties, a 7.1 speaker system can offer much improved width and depth to the surround soundstage.

Even though 7.1 receivers like Denon’s AVR-3801 were available as early as 2001, DVD’s never had the storage capacity to hold a 7.1 soundtrack.  Fortunately, June 2006 saw the launch of Blu-Ray.  And with Blu-Ray came the introduction of multiple 7.1 surround formats, the most common of which are DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.

The short answer to this question is yes.  The caveat is you need to keep the quality of the components equal.  Upgrading from a high quality 5.1 system to a lower quality 7.1 system is a step in the wrong direction.  Upgrading from an AVR-3600DTS to a new AVR-3313CI (approximately an equal replacement) is likely to yield a huge return on investment.

Even if your main seating position is against the back wall, the answer is yes!  Speaker positioning is intended to recreate a recording’s soundtrack in such a way that it centers on the action up on the screen no matter where you are sitting.  At the Cinema, people sit anywhere from front row to back.  And yet no matter where they sit, the surround effect remains anchored to the screen. The exact same principle is in play for your home.

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